Tuesday, February 24, 2009

North Meets South Again in Mississippi

Monday Night, Biloxi, Miss. -- At the risk of sounding like a big fat hog, I would like to tell you about all that I ate today. Because Mardi Gras calls for big eating. Like a competition. One that I am winning.

I kicked off the day with a little king cake (though not the one in my hotel room, but a different king cake) and attempted to balance it with fruit. Lunch was red beans and rice with andouille sausage, salad (why not?), corn bread cooked over an open hearth and a big slab of bread pudding drizzled with white chocolate sauce. Because lunch should be a light meal--just a little something to get you from breakfast to dinner. And maybe I shouldn't tell you that I had two helpings of the red beans and rice. But I just did. You would have done the same thing.

And then I had dinner. And appetizers. And dessert. What happens in Biloxi stays in Biloxi, so I won't tell you all that I ate in each course.

Within my group are several Canadians. All have adventurous spirits, a sense of wonder about the South and perpetual smiles on their faces. I think it's the food. The best quote from Monday, while eating lunch, "Southerners like pork, don't they?" Another: "Southerners really like bread, don't they?" I suppose both are true, although I never really considered it. Take away our pork and bread, and we would be sort of lost. Aside from the andouille in our red beans and rice, the large serving dish also had two huge hamhocks right in the middle. I didn't notice them. The Canadians, however, had a list of questions about the origin of a hamhock and its role in this particular dish. Southerners generally don't question such things.

Monday morning, we paid a visit to Beauvoir, home of Jefferson Davis. In a region steeped in Confederate history, you would think the Canadians would be shaking their heads and wondering what the hay we were talking about. Most, however, knew as much about the Civil War as I did. One of them even bought a Confederate flag to hang in his garden back in Victoria. Or was it Vancouver? Maybe I should know more about Canada.

One new friend carries around a bag of Canadian flags and lapel pins to hand out. Everyone, it seems, needs a souvenir from our neighbor to the north. It's like traveling with a Canadian ambassador. I joked last night that during today's Mardi Gras parade, he'll be throwing out maple leaf beads and maple leaf Moon Pies.

Today's agenda: More food, big parade, and yet more food...it is, after all, Fat Tuesday.